Inchinnan Community Council: Florish Road/Sandieland Wood Development Objection
Inchinnan Community Council (ICC) has recently put forward two letters of objection to the proposed housing development on the land between Florish Road, Erskine and Sandieland Wood. The objection is based on potential disruption to a native woodland with a rich variety of flora and fauna (including several protected species) as well as the effect on surrounding farmland in an area already under pressure from increasing industrial/residential development.
Here we present ICC's main points of objection and take a better look at each of them.
Summary of ICC’s main points of objection:
ICC’s believes current assessments (which the planning application is based on) understate the ecological value of the site, failing to properly assess priority bird species/other wildlife and potential impacts on them.
Plans to incorporate part of Sandieland Wood into the development and lack of a substantial green boundary (i.e a ‘buffer zone’ helping to protect woodland/farmland from the impact of the development) will exacerbate negative impacts.
The development contributes to increasing loss of wildlife habitat and greenbelt in Inchinnan, failing to consider the full cumulative effects of this on the area and its wildlife.
Inchinnan already has a heavily fragmented landscape and this development creates a barrier to habitat restoration plans made by local community groups and landowners.
ICC do not believe the development plans include appropriate, long-term mitigation and compensation for land loss, tree loss or disruption of wildlife/nature.
A more in-depth look at ICC's points from their 13-page objection document:
Ecological Value and Importance to Wildlife = Understated
ICC believe that current assessments do not reflect local accounts of the area and its wildlife - understating the presence of important wildlife species. They ask how appropriate plans and mitigatory actions can be developed without accurate, local knowledge of the site?
Numerous bird species on and adjacent to the site fall under UK Red List & Amber List outlining birds of conservation concern - 14 red-listed bird species (of which 9 are declared as birds of high priority for conservation in Renfrewshire Council’s Local Biodiversity Action Plan) and 17 amber-list species (6 of which are of high conservation priority in Renfrewshire) have been recorded.
Regular bat activity has been recorded on-site visually and with bat-detection equipment, with the Common Pipistrelle and Soprano Pipistrelle being observed. Bats were recorded emerging from the woodland, feeding around the woodland edge and on an area of wet rush that is currently earmarked for development.
ICC question how the development can go ahead while being informed by reporting which does not reflect local accounts of the area/its wildlife or surveying completed by other ecological professionals.
Lack of Green Boundary/Buffer Zone in Plans
There are no plans for a green boundary or buffer zone within the development with the development immediately adjacent to farmland and Sandieland Wood (with a portion of the woodland being incorporated into the plans). The site currently provides separation between woodland/grassland habitat and current housing development - building on this site will remove this separation/buffer and no doubt significantly affect the woodland and surrounding farmland.
A buffer zone = an area/strip of land which separates two areas of land and helps to lessen the impact of one area on the other (in this case, it would reduce the impact of the housing development on adjacent Sandieland Wood and grass/farmland). Read more on buffer zones here.
By providing no separation you increase the risk of disruption to wildlife, dumping/littering, garden encroachment, fire setting and intentional misuse/damage of land. This is particularly concerning considering the impressive but delicate English Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) population in Sandieland Wood. Bluebells are very sensitive to trampling and can take years to recover if damaged, the increased footfall and recreational use of the woodland this development will bring has the potential to cause significant damage. These negative effects, resulting from a lack of buffer zone between housing/woodland, have been seen in near-by Teucheen Wood.
ICC propose that the most effective mitigation would be the retention of a substantial green buffer/boundary around the development which would provide separation between the development and Sandieland Wood (and surrounding farmland) - providing opportunity for vegetation planting and habitat connectivity while lessening the impact on the woodland, farmland, the wildlife who utilise them and the landowners working on the land.
Removal of Valuable Trees and Non-native Planting Schemes
The development will removal numerous trees across the site which should be retained. Trees selected for removal include scattered trees and linear tree features in the South/South-west of the site (bordering farmland). These trees are valuable features in sparse, farmland landscapes and have been observed to support nest building and hunting by several bird species by local wildlife watchers. Bats also preferentially make use of linear tree lines in landscapes such as this for foraging and commuting. ICC question if removing the trees/shrubs along the boundaries of the site could lessen bat/bird activity and negatively impact species recorded on this site, as well as near-by Teucheen Wood.
The developers propose new tree planting schemes will be sufficient mitigation for this loss, but ICC argue that compensatory planting is not enough to make up for the loss of well-established trees which are already well-used and valuable to wildlife. Proposed planting schemes also include non-native tree species (some selected purely for aesthetic value), ICC proposes that, unless the ecological value of non-native species can be proven, native tree species more in-keeping with the area should be planted.
A Barrier to Environmental Conservation and Restoration
The housing development will contribute to an already heavily fragmented landscape - this is not only an issue local to Inchinnan (amidst increasing industrial/residential development) but also an issue across the UK. Inchinnan Development Trust are working on a large-scale project to address habitat fragmentation and develop a plan for habitat restoration and ‘nature networks’ across Inchinnan for the benefit of the environment and community - read more about this project and habitat fragmentation here.
Allowing this development to go ahead not only disregards the current ecological value the site but also the ecological potential of the site (in relation to IDT’s and wider conservation/ restoration ambitions) - effectively closing off any opportunity for ecological improvement, creating a barrier to restoration and working against the positive plans of IDT, ICC and local landowners.
The cumulative effect of this development in combination with other recent housing developments has not been appropriately addressed in plans. Adjacent housing developments have brought with them significant loss of similar habitat - the effects of this has not been fully considered. The negative impacts of increasing development are already being felt in the area through increased pressure on farmland/woodland as well as damage to wildlife habitats and protected trees.
Proposed Mitigation is Inadequate
ICC argue that the mitigatory actions proposed by the development are insufficient. Besides this, there is also no guarantee that they will be implemented, maintained long-term or effective. ICC maintain that proposed box ticking actions, such as fencing, compensatory planting, bird boxes and resident awareness campaigns are not enough. These will not mitigate the devastating loss of yet another area of grassland habitat in Inchinnan and the inevitable impacts the development will have on Sandieland Wood (due to its proximity/planned incorporation into the development).
ICC maintain that potential benefits which have been put forward (such as housing provision or economic benefit) are greatly outweighed by the irreversible damage this development could cause to the local environment and wildlife. The development proposal overlooks numerous priority wildlife species onsite and puts native Sandieland Wood (and other habitats) at considerable risk while also undermining local conservation priorities in Inchinnan by disregarding current/planned community initiatives to enhance biodiversity on site, the concerns of local wildlife experts/surveyors, and the desire of the community to maintain their greenbelt in an area that is already heavily fragmented by urbanisation.